Communities of Practice: An Exciting New Program for Clergy

Listen to this Post via Text-to-Speech Narration

An interview with Clarice Mitchell, chair of Support and Nurture for the Commission on Ministry for the Southeast Conference.

Conference Connection: Clarice, you are a member of COM and chair of Support and Nurture. I understand that that the Commission on Ministry is starting a new “Communities of Practice” program here in the Southeast Conference for clergy.

Clarice Mitchell: Yes, and I am very excited about the program because it can help clergy do their job better. The program was developed as part of the Pastoral Excellence initiative. It is dedicated to strengthening and sustaining excellent pastoral leaders for a lifetime of creative, effective service to the church. As a retired pastor, I know that it is not easy being a pastor since we wear so many hats. Also, it is often a lonely job and the Communities of Practice (“COP”) encourage lifetime friends among the other 5 or 6 participants in each group. Local pastors will benefit from this new program but so will chaplains and specialized ministers. We will have a COP just for them since their ministry is unique. They have certainly been on the front lines recently and feeling the stress of doing ministry. This is a long answer but there are so many benefits to the program I have only touched on a few.

CC: You must have been in a COP to be so enthusiastic.

Clarice: No, but I was in a support group that was part of the Pastoral Excellence network. As a result of that group, I was able to serve the same church for over 15 years.  I have several friends in Florida that I still stay in contact with after being gone for five years.

CC: What makes this a better program than the one you were in or other clergy groups?

Clarice: It has a built-in structure to help, such as a paid facilitator who is trained to lead the group. The groups share information around case studies, ponder issues, share best practices and provide spiritual discernment. Communities of Practice offer a fully rounded opportunity for a pastor/chaplain/specialized minister to grow and develop. The group can choose to learn or ponder a topic that is central to them so it is tailor-made to the group. The group is also a safe place to share ideas and explore ways to handle situations in a prayerful setting. I have heard so many glowing reports from clergy in other conferences that I think this can be a powerful tool for the clergy in this conference.

CC: This does sound different from other clergy groups I have been a part of and seems to be a place where a clergy could grow. What do I need to do to be part of a Community of Practice?

Clarice: First, let the Southeast Conference know of your desire to be part of the program. There is a fee of $250 that covers the facilitators, materials, and yearly gathering fees. I have more great news: the first year while we are getting started the fee will only be $150. You get in on the ground floor and save money. We do have some scholarships available. Secondly, you need to make a commitment to attend the virtual monthly meetings and abide by the covenant that will be established at the first meeting. Third, be prepared to see a change in your ministry for the better because of the support of the Community of Practice.

CC: So, who do I contact if I wish to be in a Community of Practice?

Clarice: You can contact Char Burch at the Conference Office at or 404-615-02492. I hope that all clergy will consider joining a group.

If you are interested in serving as a Facilitator for a Community of Practice, please click here for more information and an application form.

We are also looking for a Coordinator for this program, which will require about five hours a month. If interested, please contact Char Burch (